Youth football: Scotland to ban children under 12 heading the ball

Last updated at 13:56
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Scottish kids tell us how they feel about the header ban

Scotland looks set to become the first European country to ban heading football for under-12s.

The ban could be introduced in the next few weeks, and is because there has been new research about a possible link between football and the brain condition dementia.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is said to have taken the decision after a report found former players - who played with old style heavier footballs - could be more at risk from the disease.

There is already a ban on kids heading footballs in the United States which was introduced in 2015.

This is far from the first time this issue has been in the news.

Last year, former England player Ryan Mason called for a ban on children heading footballs.

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WATCH: 'There's no down side' to header ban, says under-12s coach

He used to play for Tottenham Hotspur and Hull before he was forced to retire in February 2018 after suffering a head injury in a collision with another player.

Mason, who now coaches Tottenham Hotspur's under-18 team, suggested that children used sponge balls to learn the technique rather than heading harder footballs.

Ryan-Mason-footballerGetty Images
Ryan Mason playing for Hull City

How did the decision to ban heading come about?

A study released in October reported the first possible links between former footballers and brain disease. The report suggested players could be three and a half times more likely to die of dementia.

Since then discussions over what to do about it have been taking place.

Two-girls-heading-the-ball.Getty Images

Although there remains no firm evidence linking heading the ball to dementia, the Scottish FA's doctor John MacLean says limiting head contact for younger players is common sense.

"We need to take some sensible, pragmatic steps at the moment and that's largely going to be about trying to reduce that overall burden, the overall [number of] times that young players head - and heading in training is much more common than in matches," he says.

What about other areas of the UK?

So far it is only the Scottish FA that is considering this change. The English FA says, "there's no evidence" to support a ban for younger footballers.

They told us, "We feel it's important that we make evidence-based decisions on matters such as this. As it stands there's no evidence to suggest that heading should be banned in youth football.

"In fact, heading is actually significantly less common in children's games than people often think, and our analysis shows that on average there are only around 1.5 headers per game in youth football."

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